Sunday, September 30, 2018

Colorful Hing Hay Park

9/29/18 Chinatown Gate and King Street Station

Yesterday USk Seattle met in Chinatown/ International District with Washington State University interior design students and their teachers, who were in Seattle for job shadowing and to research local resources. 

Over lunch afterwards, instructor Bob Krikac told me that learning to draw by hand is an important part of the curriculum because he believes clients are more receptive to early design concepts when they see them hand-drafted. As someone who obviously values old-school sketching on paper, I was pleased to hear that there’s still a place for that in contemporary design, where so much of the work is done on computers.

9/29/18 Gateway in Hing Hay Park
As you’ve seen, I’ve been using a lot of graphite lately, which I love for its expressive, tonal aspects and because it is helping me to see and understand values better. But the heck if I was going to use graphite in the colorful ID and Hing Hay Park! First up was a sketch of the historic Chinatown Gate and the equally historic King Street Station peeking behind it. I sketched a similar view last year during the Lunar New Year celebration when it was mobbed with celebrants. By comparison, it was relatively quiet in the ID yesterday.

Several months ago, I sketched a larger view of the dramatic Gateway in Hing Hay Park. This time I got up close, where a guy was eating lunch next to the bright red metal sculpture.

It was a fun morning sketching with the students and USk Seattle on what might be the last day of our streak of beautiful fall weather.


Bob and some of his students

Saturday, September 29, 2018

Sunny Yesler Terrace Park

9/28/18 Looking north up Broadway from Yesler Terrace Park

As a native and lifelong Seattle resident, I’ve seen a few new city parks open, and I’ve usually gotten around to visiting them within several months or a year of their openings. Thanks to Urban Sketchers, yesterday I saw a brand-new park that just opened last month – Yesler Terrace Park – much sooner than I probably would have otherwise.

Formerly the site of the Yesler Terrace public housing development, the 1.7 acre park serves “as a gathering place for current and future residents of Yesler Terrace as well as people who live and work in the surrounding community. The current residents are primarily from Southeast Asia and the Horn of Africa.” A new housing development for a range of income levels was built nearby.

Having seen only a few photos of the park in the newspaper, I didn’t really know what to expect when I arrived. It’s a wide-open, welcoming space with lots of benches, tables and small sculptures. Looking right past the freeway, there’s a spectacular view of south downtown, the stadium and even a peek at the peak of Mt. Rainier. (And somehow I forgot to take photos of any of it!) If you walk through the park and down multiple stairways, you pass newly landscaped and terraced grounds and eventually end up in the middle of Chinatown-International District. If you are looking for one of Seattle’s most diverse neighborhoods, Yesler Terrace Park would be at its center.

9/28/18 Yesler Terrace Park and the Smith Tower
With all of that to choose from, what did I sketch? Streetcar and utility wires criss-crossing Broadway and shadows in the street cast by new construction.

As seems to have become my habit lately, I spent so much time on that first sketch that I left myself only 26 minutes before the throwdown for a second sketch. Looking for the Smith Tower, my favorite Seattle building, I had to sight past one of numerous concrete spheres around the park. It reminded me of one of the early exercises we did in the drawing class I took last month: sketching a ball in the sunlight to practice capturing the core shadow, cast shadow, form shading and reflected light. The whole scene looked like a value study, so study it I did.

This time we had a rain contingency plan that consisted of more than optimism, but luckily, we didn’t need it. The morning turned out sunny, warm and beautiful – a lovely gift for the end of September.

Friday, September 28, 2018

Thinking Visually with Sketches

9/11/18 Arboretum

My Gage instructor Suzanne Brooker (whom I studied colored pencil and graphite with) offered some of her current and former private students a mini-course this fall in sketching on location. Unlike all other location sketching classes I’ve taken, this one doesn’t focus on making completed drawings. The sole purpose of these sketches is for what she calls visual thinking – a method for taking visual notes that will be informative when we refer to them back at the studio to make finished drawings using photo references.

Since I don’t make finished drawings “back at the studio,” my main motivation for taking the class is to continue learning from Suzanne – but this time in the field instead of using photos. (I kept my fingers crossed that September’s weather would stay hospitable, and so far it has been beautiful.) We’ve been meeting weekly at the Washington Park Arboretum, where she has found much subject matter for her own work. Very familiar with the park, she has taken us to her favorite spots and shared some of her vast knowledge of trees.

9/25/18 Arboretum
Having just completed Kathleen Moore’s course in Drawing Nature, in which Kathleen strongly emphasized making thumbnails as a tool for developing drawings, I was pleased by how well the two instructors’ reasoning reinforced each other. While Kathleen encouraged us to spend no more than a few minutes on a small thumbnail to design the composition and understand the values, Suzanne takes a little more time to develop a small sketch, but the intention is the same: Explore a composition and take note of the values.

Composition and values. Composition and values. Composition and values. These are the most important elements in any drawing or painting (at least those based on realism). Did I mention composition and values? (I’m repeating these mantras so I won’t forget!)

Because we aren’t taking the time to complete sketches on the spot, Suzanne’s class has been somewhat frustrating to me – I find myself automatically working furiously to finish sketches in my usual way and sometimes missing the point of visual notetaking. But I thoroughly appreciate the opportunity to see how she looks at a given view – for example, a densely packed mass of trees and foliage that just looks like a huge mess of green to me – and designs a composition based on some part of it. Seeing her small sketches that result from that mess of green gives me a glimpse of what she’s thinking about. Visual thinking. It’s both informative and fascinating.

Shown here are a few examples of my visual thoughts. Yes, the thoughts have been as muddled as the sketches, but I’m working on better clarity in both.

Here's what I saw...
... and here's what I was thinking about when I saw it.
The mind is a messy place to look.


Thursday, September 27, 2018

Gas Works Marina

9/24/18 Gas Works Marina

Gas Works Park is one of my favorite places to sketch, especially when I’m experimenting with new media. The view is familiar, yet the imposing Gas Works are always challenging to draw. Several years ago, I worked on a single-line exercise there, and another time I practiced using my brush pen.

This week we’ve had quintessential fall weather – temperatures in the high 60s, sunshine and clear skies – and it suddenly occurred to me that I didn’t sketch at Gas Works all summer! I dashed over there before I missed the fall, too.

My intention was to practice using graphite on the Gas Works, which offer an excellent exercise in values. But when I arrived, I found myself walking toward the marina instead, where I hadn’t sketched since USk Seattle got drenched several years ago. Although perhaps not as challenging to draw as the Gas Works, the boats, water and Capitol Hill behind them turned out to be a formidable values study in their own right. I hope I have enough good fall days left so that I can go back and try the Gas Works in graphite, too.

Wednesday, September 26, 2018

Product Review: Viarco ArtGraf Water-Soluble Graphite Pencil

Viarco ArtGraf water-soluble graphite pencil

Because I love watercolor pencils, I’ve acquired numerous graphite pencils that are also water soluble (as a matter of principle). But it wasn’t until the graphite drawing class I took last year that I made a concerted effort to become familiar with them. Just like their colored counterparts, water-soluble graphite pencils are a versatile medium.

What I look for in a water-soluble graphite pencil is a core that applies as smoothly in its dry state as would an ordinary graphite pencil of a similar grade. Then when I activate it with water, I want the washed result to be as dark and rich as possible without having to scrub. In a tonal drawing (like the one of the church shown below), it’s a fast, easy way to turn the darkest darks into a solid black.

9/19/18 Graphite and ArtGraf on
Strathmore Bristol smooth
Another notable attribute is that once the activated graphite dries, it becomes permanent and will no longer dissolve. Additional layers can be applied and activated without disturbing the layers beneath. This permanence after drying is a strong benefit because I use a spritzed-on fixative that leaves the page quite wet, and if the graphite were to continue dissolving, it would turn into a mess.

Last December when I discussed my Top Products of 2017, the Viarco ArtGraf water-soluble graphite pencil made the list. I’ve tried a variety of brands, including Cretacolor, Faber-Castell, Caran d’Ache and Derwent, and the Portuguese-made Viarco is easily my favorite.

For the test chart I made here, I wanted to compare apples to apples, but I don’t own all grades in all brands, so my test is not exactly scientific. Frankly, they all look similar in their dry state, and the differences become apparent mostly after they are activated. (Samples were made in a Stillman & Birn Beta sketchbook by swiping once with a juicy waterbrush; no scrubbing.) For example, the wash of the Derwent Sketching pencil in 8B is pale compared to the Faber-Castell in 6B or even the Viarco in 2B.



When applied dry, the Caran d’Ache Technalo is also a favorite for its smoothness, but it only goes as far as 3B in darkness. If I could get one in 6B, I’d probably love it.

12/25/17 ArtGraf and white colored pencil in Stillman & Birn Nova sketchbook
The Viarco ArtGraf comes in 2B and 6B grades, but I can hardly tell the difference between them when dry. Activated, however, the 6B has the darkest, richest wash of the pencils I’ve tried, so I prefer it for its versatility. Viarco also makes a water-soluble carbon pencil. When washed, it’s even darker and richer than the ArtGraf, but it’s much scratchier and rougher when applied dry. The ArtGraf is a nice balance between a pleasant dry application and a dark wash.

The link I provided above goes to Amazon, which offers the ArtGraf only as a pair containing both the 2B and 6B (at a hefty price). The 6B was available individually in a shop in Lisbon, so I stocked up there. I saw that CW Pencils carries the 2B singly, but not the 6B, so I inquired, and I was told that carrying the 6B was likely in the future. 
 
2/22/17 ArtGraf on Canson XL 140 lb. watercolor paper
One more reason I love using the ArtGraf is shown in the sketch below, which you saw the other day in my post about Good Shepherd Center. When I spotted the beautiful shadows falling across the veranda floor and the columns that cast them, I wanted to do a graphite sketch by building up those subtle tones gradually. But I had only 20 minutes until the throwdown, so I had to use the quick-and-dirty method: Lots of heavy strokes from the ArtGraf deepened with a slap-dash of the waterbrush. Applied this way, it lacks finesse, but it gets the job done. I like a tool with that kind of versatility.

9/22/18 ArtGraf on Strathmore Bristol smooth

Tuesday, September 25, 2018

In the Zone

9/21/18 Shannon (2.5-hour pose)

So far, I’ve been using the graphite technique I learned from Eduardo Bajzek mainly for buildings and street scenes. Wanting to try other types of subjects with the method, I decided to go to a long-pose life drawing session at Gage last week. Normally I prefer short poses because I want to practice fast gestures that will help me most when I’m sketching people in the real world, but this graphite technique takes a long period. While short-pose sessions are a series of one-minute to 20-minute poses, the long-pose session is the same pose for the entire three hours. Allowing for model breaks, the actual drawing time is about two-and-a-half hours.

Let me just say that using this reductive technique with a building is easier than with a human form! The technique is especially conducive to street scenes because the negative space around the straight sides of buildings or rooflines is easy to erase out. After I toned the paper, I realized I hardly had anything to erase out – just some parts of the model’s face and torso and a few highlights. But since one of the key benefits of graphite is the beautiful graduated tonal shading it can impart, I kept going.

Eventually I found myself deeply in “the zone” – something I rarely feel when I’m drawing. I spent the full time on this one drawing – also something rare for me. I don’t understand much about the mental state called “the zone,” but I lost all sense of time. When the moderator’s timer went off every 20 minutes for the break, I was surprised – it seemed like only a few minutes had gone by. My mind didn’t wander to thoughts outside the drawing – it was just me and the pencil.

Around the last 15 minutes or so of the session, I switched into critical mode, and I noticed proportion problems (and I thought I had measured so carefully, too), and the drawing looked overworked. Even so, I enjoyed making this drawing immensely.

I wish I understood more about the zone so that I could put myself there more often, but when I recall the other few times it has happened (a recent example was when I was drawing a stand of poplars in class), it seems related to spending a significant length of time on a single sketch. Maybe it just takes a while to get there, and the shorter sketches I usually make don’t allow enough time. I don’t (and can’t) necessarily spend a couple of hours on a sketch just to get into the zone, but maybe there’s a way to get there faster.

Technical note: I made this drawing with a Blackwing (ungraded but softer than HB) and a Mitsubishi pencil in 4B on Canson Bristol smooth paper.

Monday, September 24, 2018

Good Shepherd Center and Wurst Fest

9/22/18 Entertainers at the Great Wallingford Wurst Festival
9/22/18 Good Shepherd Center's veranda

Saturday’s USk sketch outing featured many sketchable attractions at Good Shepherd Center and Meridian Park, including the historic Seattle Landmark building, a playground, gazebo, sculptures and lots of shrouded apple trees protected from insects in this pesticide-free park. Once I arrived, however, I learned that the Great Wallingford Wurst Festival was just a couple of blocks away! I’m not a fan of wurst, but I am a fan of small community festivals (especially “great” ones), so I couldn’t resist.

As Jane and I walked toward St. Benedictine School, where the wurst family event has been held annually for 35 years, the church’s tower called to me as an ideal exercise in graphite. I had my pencil and sketchbook out, ready to go, but then rockabilly music from the festival called to me even more loudly. Forget the tower – I had more fun sketching this group of lively musicians.

After hanging out at the wurst fest longer than I had intended, watching kids win prizes at the flamingo toss and other sports, I hurried back to the Good Shepherd Center. With only 20 minutes until the throwdown, I went out to the back veranda, where the columns cast stripes of shadows in the late-afternoon sun.

Sunday, September 23, 2018

The Pencil Question Came Up

9/19/18 Vereinigte Deutschsprachige Kirche (German United Church of Christ), Capitol Hill

“May I ask you a question?”

The young man who had been eating his lunch at the bench next to mine approached hesitantly. “When you and other sketchers hold up a pencil like that, what are you doing?”

I explained that I was gauging proportions and angles and gave an example from the church I was sketching. He listened, nodded, thanked me, and went on his way. 

Although I occasionally have conversations about sketching when passers-by approach me, I think this was the first time anyone had ever asked that.

Technical note: Starting with a Blackwing pencil, I finished this sketch by putting in the darkest darks with a Viarco ArtGraf water-soluble graphite pencil. It made it onto my Top Products list last year (I keep saying I need to review it, and I’m saying it again now), and for good reason: The 6B version is a truly luscious pencil.

Saturday, September 22, 2018

Vintage Colored Pencils: Laurentien and Venus Paradise

Laurentien colored pencil packaging

Earlier this year when I was surfing around on eBay for vintage colored pencils, an interesting name caught my attention: Laurentien, a Canadian brand. The name popped up relatively frequently, sometimes in large bulk quantities, so I deduced that these pencils were no longer being produced but were also not rare. The sets I saw most often were of 12 or 24 colors packaged in plastic cases.

Some Internet research revealed that this colored pencil brand was fondly and nostalgically remembered by Canadians who used them in elementary school much the way Americans look back at Crayola. Unlike Crayola, however, Laurentien pencils were apparently pleasant to use.

Win a Commodore home computer system!
Curious, I waited for an inexpensive, used set to appear, and shortly thereafter, an interesting offer popped up: Two packages were for sale together, and one had a label promoting a giveaway of a Commodore computer! Instantly dating the pencils for the 1980s, the package made the offer irresistible.

The two incomplete sets I bought – both with the Faber Castell logo on the cases – might be of slightly different ages. The barrels of one set say “Venus Canada” while the others say only “Canada.” In addition, the pencils that say Venus Canada include color names in English only. The pencils labeled Canada show color names in both English and French. A distinguishing feature of
Faber Castell's logo appears on both packages
Laurentien colored pencils are the color numbers, which are intended for use with color-by-number coloring books. (Some of those corresponding coloring books can still be found on eBay.)

The name Venus was familiar to me from vintage graphite and colored pencils I’ve seen on eBay, including the small set of American Venus watercolor pencils I reviewed earlier this year. In that review, I mentioned the two random Venus Paradise pencils I had dug up at a local thrift shop. Disappointingly, the watercolor pencils were not nearly as soft and pigmented as the Venus Paradise, so I went on a hunt for more of the latter.

Eventually I acquired a used set of 12 Venus Paradise, which are relatively rare compared to other Venus colored pencils. When examined, I saw that the Paradise pencils have the same color numbers as the Laurentien pencils! The plot thickens!
 
In each color pair, the upper pencil is Venus Paradise; the lower is Laurentien. The color numbers match.

A nearly complete set of color numbers 1 - 24. Some say Canada; others say Venus Canada.

Some color names are in English only; others include French.


Indeed, it didn’t take long to discover that Laurentien and Venus Paradise were basically the same pencils marketed in Canada and the US, respectively. The most informative article came from the Canadian Design Resource, which said the following:

Although Laurentien (then spelled Laurentian) pencil crayons were made in Canada right from the start, The Venus Pencil Company Ltd. also marketed the same pencils under the brand name ‘Paradise’ in the United States. Both brands were developed for Colour-By-Number kits, and they both kept the same colour names and numbering system. This would explain some of the more exotic colour names like “#2 Sarasota Orange” and “#4 Hollywood Cerise.”
During the 1960’s, a couple of Canadian innovations were made: The packaging was changed to the portable vinyl pouches, and space for labeling on the pencil was introduced to deter theft from classmates.
In 1972, a year before Faber-Castell bought Venus, the French spelling “Laurentien” was trademarked in an attempt to increase sales in Quebec.
Sanford acquired the brand in 1994, and in 2001 they changed the packaging and discontinued the vinyl pouch.
Intriguing information for a colored pencil historian! It made me happier than ever that I had gotten sets in vinyl pouches (not to mention the Commodore promotion).

Two logo designs on Venus Paradise pencils
  
Left: Venus Paradise; right: Laurentien
I say that Laurentien and Paradise are “basically” the same because they aren’t identical. The Paradise core is ever-so-slightly thicker and feels a bit waxier.

The Paradise set I bought on eBay has a slightly different logo design than the two random ones I found at the thrift store (I’m particularly fond of the logo on the light blue and green ones from the thrift shop).

As for how they apply, both pencils are soft and waxy but don’t layer and blend as well as other soft pencils I’ve used. Still, for pencils intended for elementary school children, they are pleasant and certainly useable (a far cry from the hard, unpigmented Crayola pencils that I remember from my youth). As the only Canadian colored pencil in my collection (or that I even know of), the Laurentien remains unique and special.



5/27/18 Laurentien colored pencils in Stillman & Birn Epsilon sketchbook

Friday, September 21, 2018

Seven Years on This Journey

12/6/11

Seven years ago today, I began a drawing habit. Every year on this anniversary, I indulge in long-winded introspection about my practice and process. Last year I got so long-winded that I had to divide my musings into three posts (part 1, part 2 and part 3). I’ll spare you this time and keep my commentary brief:

During the first couple of years that I was sketching, I showed the most growth and improvement. My learning trajectory was mostly straight up simply because I went from never practicing to practicing daily. When that improvement started to taper off, even though I was still sketching as much as ever, my biggest fear was that I would eventually hit a plateau and never get past it.

In the years after that, I continued to see incremental improvements – not the more gratifying leaps I made in the beginning, but still mostly steady movement in the right direction. Every now and then I slide back discouragingly, but somehow I always get back on track. Rusty whenever I return to life drawing after a long period, the nuts and bolts eventually get oiled again. That recurring pattern has given me reassurance that my creative progress looks more like a series of rolling hills rather than a rocket (an insight I had even when I was just starting).

11/17/11 Here's a self-portrait I made directly in ink within two months
after I started sketching. Rather brave of me, huh? I see I cleaned up my
eyebrows! ;-)
The last two years I made a concentrated effort on formal learning by studying a total of 25 weeks with Suzanne Brooker at Gage (first with color, then with graphite). More recently, Eduardo Bajzek changed the way I responded to values by giving me a new take on graphite. And all of that learning has led me to experiment with teaching myself how to understand values better (see yesterday’s post). I no longer waste energy worrying about when I’m going to hit a plateau. Instead, I’m hopeful that I’ll always have some capacity to continue learning.

Perhaps the most gratifying part about my journey is simple: Now when I look at a sketch I’ve just finished, I’m more often happy than unhappy. But regardless of how I feel about that last sketch, the important part is this: I always turn the page and make the next one.

(My previous years’ anniversary posts are here: 20162015201420132012.)


11/23/11

12/1/11 When I first started, I wrote a lot more commentary to accompany the sketches than I do now. As a lifelong
journal keeper, I was more comfortable writing in public than sketching, so when I felt nervous, I often
wrote notes like this to relax before starting the next sketch.

Thursday, September 20, 2018

Purple Shadows, Yellow Trees

9/17/18 Wedgwood neighborhood

Ever since my head exploded in Eduardo Bajzek’s workshop, I’ve been thinking about his graphite technique and trying to figure out how I can do it with color. As much as I love graphite – its material simplicity; its monochrome elegance; its incomparable richness when applied well – I always miss color when I use it. Especially this time of year when brilliant color fills the urban landscape, I can’t bring myself to use a monochrome medium.

Then again, I know all too well how distracted and confused I can get by color. As soon as I start focusing on hues and trying to match what I see to the colors in my palette, I forget all about values. And if there’s one thing I have learned over and over in every class I’ve taken and every book I’ve read on drawing, it’s that values are king. If you get the values right, a sketch will “read” properly, regardless of color.

1/26/17 photo reference
When I was taking the landscape drawing class in colored pencil last year, it was the first time I seriously studied how to use color to convey form and value. One of the most informative exercises we did was to use only three pencils to draw a tree (at left): a green for the mid-values; a warm yellow for the sunny side; a cool blue for the shadows. In the same way that Eduardo’s workshop helped me to see and understand values in a way I had not before, this tree assignment simplified color into three basic values. I felt enlightened.

Although yellow/green/blue is a natural palette to use for a tree (since optically mixing yellow + blue = green), I don’t think it would have mattered which three colors I had used. The enlightening part was that looking only at these three hues made it easy to “codify” the values in my mind. I looked at the reference photo of the tree, and wherever I saw light, I colored the tree with yellow. Wherever I saw shadows and shade, I used blue. Everything else was the green mid-value.

In later assignments when we could use as many hues as we wanted to, I often got confused when I was trying to indicate local color (the color I see on that rock) and the values (the difference between the light and shaded sides of the rock). I sometimes resorted to “codifying” the values as I did in the tree exercise: I’ll use this hue for the sunny side of the rock, and that hue for the shaded side. Eventually I would blend everything with numerous pencils so that it all looked more natural, but developing a “code” helped my brain understand it.

All those lessons working with photos have stayed with me on some cerebral level, but when I’m sketching on location, my very literal mind gets confused about local hues and values again. And yet when I use nothing but graphite on location, it’s much easier not to get confused. Black and white are already an abstracted code. I squint, I see the lights, mediums and darks, and I can get the job done with one pencil.

Thinking about all of this, I decided to play the codifying game on location, but to trick my pea brain, I tried to avoid literal hues. In the sketch at the top of the page, the small aspen really was a brilliant yellow, so I allowed my literal brain to start there, and then I continued to put in yellow wherever I saw light on other trees (yellow = light). I started to make the other trees green, but then I stopped myself and put their shadows in with dark blue and purple (blue/purple = shade). The result is somewhat garish, but I hope it “reads” accurately.

The next day at the arboretum, the light was brilliant on one of my favorite trees there, a decorative cherry (below). Remembering the yellow/purple complement I used on the street scene, I gave the combo another shot, using green for the mid-values.

My intention isn’t necessarily to continue sketching in abstract, non-literal colors, but if I can apply to urban sketching the same kind of codifying I taught myself while drawing from photos, maybe I’ll eventually figure out how to make the leap from monochrome to color without losing the values.

9/18/18 Washington Park Arboretum

Wednesday, September 19, 2018

Alice’s Tomatoes

9/15/18 heirloom tomatoes

I’ve sketched a lot of tomatoes – they’re probably my second-most-often sketched fruit after apples – but these tomatoes are special. Not only were they the most delicious tomatoes I’ve eaten this year; they were grown by my friend and neighbor Alice. She said this summer, her garden’s tomatoes were the best they had ever been. I guess all those weeks of dry heat were good for something.

Tuesday, September 18, 2018

Losing Ground, Gaining it Back Again

9/13/18 10-min. pose

I hadn’t been to a Gage life drawing session since June. It took me at least the first two hours to feel like my hand and arm had finally warmed up, but even after another hour, I didn’t find my mojo. Whenever I go back to life drawing after a summer hiatus (I can’t bear to draw indoors when the weather is beautiful), I feel rusty for weeks. That’s the way it is with the practice of practice – it has to be continuous.

10-min. pose
















During the spring and summer when I was sketching houses in my neighborhood regularly, I think my architectural drawing skills improved. But now that I can’t sketch outdoors much anymore, I’ll probably be rusty by the time I resume my series again.

I know it’s not possible to practice everything all the time, but after a long break, I wish I could just pick up where I left off. It doesn’t seem to work that way, though. Fortunately, the ground I lose isn’t permanent. The more regularly I go to life drawing, the easier and faster it will be to get back to where I was.

2-min. poses

Monday, September 17, 2018

Fire Station No. 2 and Belltown

9/16/18 Fire Station No. 2 and other Belltown landmarks

It was déjà vu all over again.

Just like Friday, I woke to pouring rain, wondering if I would be alone at the meetup location. An overhang and some large trees would offer some shelter to sketchers who wanted to face Fire Station No. 2 in Belltown, but if we got the thunderstorms and heavy rain forecast by weather.com, it wouldn’t be much fun. In addition, the Storm’s WNBA championship parade at Seattle Center was expected to make traffic and parking difficult in the area.

The hardcore who showed up at the start time!
But again, just like Friday, the showers turned into sunshine, and the handful of sketchers who met me at the start time turned into a strong showing by the time of the throwdown!

Despite the blue sky directly above, I was leery that the rain could return at any moment and reluctant to commit to a page-size composition that I might have to abandon. Instead, I decided to make a series of small sketches in Michele Cooper’s montage style. My first stop was Station No. 2, the focus of our outing. Designated a landmark in 1985, the 1921-built facility houses one engine company, a ladder unit, a medic unit and a reserve medic unit (some of which we saw coming out and back into the station as we sketched). 

 
One of the fire trucks responding to an emergency as we
sketched.
Next I wanted to capture the Space Needle flying Seattle Storm’s flag. I’m not a basketball fan, but it was exciting to see a women’s team being celebrated as an alternative to the usual Seahawks’ 12 flag at this time of year. (The drops on my Needle sketch indicate that standing under a tree while sketching isn’t necessarily a good strategy when it has been raining all night.)

The historic bell had captured several other sketchers’ attention, and for good reason. From the station that was near the same location in the 1800s, the bell sounded an alarm that could be heard for “nearly 10 miles,” said the plaque. “The horse-drawn engine then responded to the location.”

(Contrary to my speculation, the Belltown neighborhood was not named for this bell, which had an important emergency response role in the 1800s. It was named for William Nathaniel Bell, a member of the Denny party that originally settled Seattle. In addition, Virginia Street and Olive Way were named after his children. It’s a good thing I sketch and blog about my sketches or I’d never learn such local trivia.)
 
Natalie and Antonella sketching the historic bell.

By then the strong wind had chilled me, so I went to look for coffee. Walking back, I looked up at the numerous cranes and construction sites in Belltown. To complete my montage, I picked an apartment complex going up on Second Avenue and Wall Street (one of many such boxy buildings popping up all over the city).

Once again, hooray for hardy sketchers who say bah-humbug to dire weather forecasts!




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